Men, vulnerability and football

Featured article - 16 November 2022
By Steve Palmer, SCIE Communications Manager

Steve Palmer

I was actually crying. It really hurt. It was like having pins jabbed into my upper lip with no respite. It was 23.55 on 30 November and I was desperate to shave that horrible moustache off. But I made it until Midnight because there is an important message here: Men need to talk about their health and mental health. OK, the moustache thing was particularly about Movember and prostate health. Full disclosure: A friend has had recent challenges with this and I’ve done my bit by getting checked and telling other men to get checked; but International Men’s Day, Movember and Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month are all in November and they’re important.

Chatting with a colleague, we discussed the issue of ‘vulnerability’. We agreed that, even though I was a teenager in the 1970s and he was a teenager in the 2000s, there’s still been an issue for both of us – and many men – in admitting vulnerability. Why is this so important?


I once read a short story about how footballers were very happy to admit to mental health issues but kept a stiff upper lip when it came to physical injuries such as broken legs and torn cruciate ligaments. Ridiculous, isn’t it? But the point being made is that when you juxtapose it back to reality, it’s harmful not to discuss mental health. Admitting that you have a broken leg is easy. Admitting that you’re vulnerable should be as easy.

Seeking professional advice can be expensive or there might be some help available via the NHS. Either way, my colleague and I both agreed that the phrase ‘Ended up in therapy’ is really naff. It supposes that speaking to someone about your vulnerabilities is a last resort. Whereas it should be natural. For vulnerability, see a big wall that needs to be torn down.

My colleague says that society can still, even in 2022, dictate that that men in particular should avoid vulnerability and that men can’t ‘show themselves’ to anyone else in the world. But once you say ‘I’m vulnerable’, you don’t actually fall to pieces and it’s actually emboldening. You can feel a weight lifted off. So, admitting vulnerability, far from being the worst thing you can do, might be the best thing that you can do.

So I’m happy to get to say that I feel vulnerable. And that doesn’t make me feel week. It makes me feel stronger. My colleague reckons that if we can talk about feelings as easily as we can talk about football – and I do discuss football with him – then we would have made some progress. But I'm never going to grow another moustache. I'll donate but I won't do that again...

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